A table showcasing a variety of meat with labels and certification banners for authenticity and identification purposes.

Certifications and Labels: Decoding Meat Quality Assurance in New Zealand

As consumers, we make dozens of choices daily. Shelves are stacked with products in packaging designed to entice customers. When buying meat, labels and certifications promise everything from superior quality to ethical sourcing, but what do these labels really mean? How do we navigate this maze of claims to make informed choices about the meat we buy? Understanding what's on the packaging and what that means for what is inside the packaging can help us make conscientious decisions about our meat consumption.


Introduction to Certifications and Labels

Certifications and labels are markers of quality, safety, and ethical standards in the meat industry. They provide consumers with valuable information about how and where the meat was produced, processed, and sourced. In New Zealand, a country with a strong reputation for its agricultural practices, these certifications and labels are pivotal in ensuring transparency and accountability throughout the supply chain.


Organic Certification

Among the most sought-after labels in food production and supply is organic certification. Organic meat in New Zealand is produced according to stringent standards that dictate the use of organic feed, prohibit the use of antibiotics and synthetic hormones, and mandate sustainable farming practices.

In order for food to be labelled as organic in New Zealand, it must comply with the Fair Trading Act 1986 in respect to using the term "organic" in marketing claims and meet specific industry requirements for the food type. The Act goes on to state that if products are "certified organic", this claim must be backed up with a certificate.  

New Zealand has several organic certification bodies. Organic certification offers customer assurance while also providing farmers and producers with the necessary support to uphold rigorous organic principles. A certification logo enables consumers to easily identify products that adhere to strict organic standards throughout production, from soil to store shelf.


Animal Welfare Standards

For consumers concerned about animal welfare and environmental sustainability, labels like 'cage-free', 'free-range' and 'pasture-raised' offer some reassurance. Whilst New Zealand does not have specific industry standards regarding these labels, they generally indicate that animals have been allowed to roam more freely and graze on natural pasture, leading to healthier and happier livestock. 

The SPCA have advanced their 'Blue Tick' program to become to 'SPCA certified'. This certification holds farming businesses to high standards of care using the Five Domains of Animal Welfare model. This label can currently be found on several free range chicken products, including at Online Meats, where all of our free range chicken is SPCA certified. 

By opting for SPCA certified, free-range and pasture-raised meat, consumers can better support humane treatment of animals and promote sustainable land management practices.


Halal Certification

In a multicultural society like New Zealand, Halal certification holds significance for many consumers. Halal meat adheres to Islamic dietary laws, ensuring that animals are slaughtered in accordance with religious principles. Halal certification guarantees that meat products are free from prohibited substances and have been processed in a manner that respects religious beliefs and practices.


Quality Assurance Programs

Quality assurance programs such as the New Zealand Beef and Lamb Quality Mark aim to uphold the highest standards of meat quality, traceability, and food safety. stringent standards. The Quality Mark indicates the meat is sourced from New Zealand and raised in free-range conditions. The meat must be tender and free from Hormone Growth Promotants (HGPs). Processing adheres to the highest animal welfare standards, and finally, the meat meets the highest standards of food safety, ensuring that consumers can trust its quality and integrity.

These programs provide consumers with confidence that the meat they purchase has undergone rigorous testing and meets stringent criteria for freshness and taste.


Sustainable Farming Certifications

With growing concerns about environmental sustainability, certifications related to sustainable farming practices are likely to become more common. Programs like the Sustainable Farming Fund and Eco Choice New Zealand encourage farmers to adopt practices that minimise environmental impact and promote biodiversity. 

Other organisations, like the international system Demeter, certify food or products that have been produced using biodynamic practices

As more meat products receive sustainable certification, consumers can contribute to preserving New Zealand's natural resources for future generations.


Understanding Label Claims

Navigating the many label claims on our meat can be daunting, but recognising and understanding some of the more common terms can empower us to make informed choices. Knowing more about certifications and labels lets us align our purchases with our values and priorities, whether supporting organic farming practices, promoting animal welfare, or safeguarding the environment. 


Online Meats proudly stocks an extensive range of quality meat products, many of which are free-range and are proudly SPCA certified or bear the NZ Beef and Lamb Quality Mark. Knowing more about the meat we buy can drive positive change in the meat industry and create a more sustainable and ethical food system for the future.